Jersey Shore, Part 1 (Huh?)

My wife and I took a little road trip over the Spring Break week immediately proceeding Easter.  We sent the kids away to stay with their grandparents.  Unencumbered, we found a rare opportunity to choose pretty much any destination in the world we wanted to explore.  Friends seemed perplexed by our ultimate decision though.  We selected… New Jersey?  Specifically, the Jersey Shore?  Regular readers of Twelve Mile Circle will certainly understand and maybe even appreciate the logic that led to that unusual choice.

Arriving at the Decision

Atlantic City

Quite simply, I’d never been to the Atlantic County and wanted to add it to my county counting list.  Most people know the area best for its largest municipality, Atlantic City, along with its strip of casinos.  No other unvisited county stood any closer to my home so it seemed like an obvious target.  Plus, I also needed to capture two counties immediately further north along the coastline — Ocean and Monmouth — to complete my visit to every county in New Jersey.

I’d done this “closest counties” hunt before.   This included a weekend trip to Huntingdon and Blair Counties in Pennsylvania a couple of years ago.  I had an enjoyable time and I figured that this one would reveal its own special moments as it unfolded.

How had I never been to Atlantic City when it beckoned less than three hours away?  I didn’t even know.  It just happened.  Now I could strike it from the list though.  That’s why we chose the Jersey Shore.

The Plan

County Captures
Underlying map courtesy of Mob Rule
I welcomed the opportunity for an easy road trip for once.  Usually they stretched for at least a thousand miles (1,600 km) .  The cross-country adventure last winter hit an amazing three thousand!  However, this one would be much less ambitious than most of the others.

We planned to drive from Virginia up to New Brunswick, New Jersey on the initial leg so my wife could run a race at Rutgers the next morning.  From there we would slowly wander down the entire length of the Jersey Shore from north to south, Sandy Hook to Cape May, staying in a different boutique hotel or bed & breakfast each night.  We would barely hit 500 miles over the course of a week.  Some days would involve only an hour of driving.  Truly, this qualified as a casual pace for anyone, not just ourselves.

I looked forward to a relaxing drive and an easy itinerary.

Best Laid Plans

County Captures
Underlying map courtesy of Mob Rule
That didn’t quite happen.  Most of the trip fell into alignment with my usual expectations and relentless over-planning.  However the first day changed drastically.  Remember the kids?  Right, who could forget them.  We still had to get our little darlings to the grandparents.

Unfortunately Southwestern Airlines canceled the kids’ flight two hours before they were scheduled to depart on Friday afternoon.  They blamed it on the ongoing issues with Boeing 737 Max jets.  They couldn’t get replacement equipment in place in time, or so they claimed.  Later they denied what they’d said and blamed the cancellation on “the weather” on a perfect day.  Unfortunately, the first day of spring break didn’t leave a lot of options and we couldn’t reschedule a flight until Sunday evening.  Meanwhile we had a race scheduled for Sunday morning plus a string of non-refundable hotel reservations.

My wife’s parents saved the day by volunteering to drive down from Wisconsin to Pittsburgh where we could exchange the kids.  They drove for several hours and we drove in the wrong direction for about four hours, handing the kids off at some random exit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Then we continued across nearly the entire length of Pennsylvania to get to New Jersey.    By the way, I wouldn’t recommend Pittsburgh as a waypoint between Virginia and New Jersey.  We drove ten hours that first day instead of three, and the trip cracked the thousand mile barrier by the time we finished a week later.


Lots of people wondered whether we’d try to follow in the footsteps of Snooki and her friends from the TV show Jersey Shore.  Absolutely not.  First, I’m too old for any of that.  Additionally, as Jersey natives kept telling me, the stars of Jersey Shore came from Staten Island, in NEW YORK.  The show didn’t represent the Jersey Shore according to our acquaintances, it represented a bunch of outsiders trashing the Jersey Shore.

Also, April seemed like a strange time of year to head to the beach.  Frankly I love going to beach towns without the tourists.  Things were just opening up for the season so we got a taste of what they had to offer except without the usual crowds.  Your preferences might vary.

I hope readers like lighthouses, boardwalks and breweries because that’s what I’ll be talking about over the next few chapters.

Articles in the Jersey Shore Series:

  1. Huh?
  2. Boardwalks
  3. Lighthouses
  4. Brewery Renaissance
  5. Positive Signs
  6. A Little History
  7. Leftovers

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr